I love a bit of history and Rotherhithe’s Blacksmiths Arms has it in spades.
The current landlord’s family members have been lighter men on the Thames since the 19th century. The restaurant displays photos of those ancestors spruced up for a beano by a charabanc outside the legendary lighterage company, Braithwaite & Dean.
But all that history does not mean the Blacksmiths is stuck in the past, and a menu combining classic and modern dishes shows they are keeping ahead of the game.
The Ballerina and I visited on a rainy Sunday evening after the mad rush on the roasts had ended and the friendly staff ready for the evening wave of customers.
My wine-loving partner had chosen the Tempranillo Rioja from a short but carefully selected list of mainly European wines. It was smooth and dark, fruity with a nice aftertaste that worked well through our starters, two red meat dishes, and dessert.
We shared salt and pepper squid and vegetarians spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce to begin.
Nina noticed immediately from the ingredients inside that the spring rolls were handmade. “Usually it’s big strip of carrot,” she explained. The balance of the crispy outer and the tasty inner was spot on.
The squid had just the right amount of a chilli kick in the accompanying salad for me, although the chilli wimp opposite nearly went over at one point and was only saved by a good glug of wine. She then concentrated on the crispy garlic bits, leaving me to enjoy the chilli.
Our host introduced himself and gave us a bit of his and his family’s background.
Their connection with Rotherhithe hasn’t just been through the river. His grandfather had the legendary Downtown restaurant, a place of wonder for us young men in the mid ‘70s who deemed it a special night out if we had saved up enough to pay it a visit.
Our main courses arrived.
I had the grilled lamb cutlets with basil mash and rosemary jus: an excellent plate of food, nicely presented. There’s not a lot of meat on lamb cutlets but what is there is choice meat. I so wanted to pick up the bones to gnaw on but I was threatened with death if I did.
Nina, the fish-eating vegetarian, ordered the rib-eye steak that she set about like she hadn’t eaten for three days.
Between each mouthful she gave me a running commentary about how much she loves steak, how perfect it was cooked, how nice it tasted, etc, all with her eyes closed like she was in a transcendental trance.
While she was distracted I purloined half of her chips. I only meant to nick one or two but they were so nice I couldn’t stop!
There is absolutely nothing to complain about here. The meat is sourced down the Blue in Bermondsey, the food is all cooked from scratch.
“The only thing we don’t do is grow our own veg and bake our own bread,” we were told.
The pub itself has hardly changed over the years, with the same wood panelling I recall in the ‘70s, and it can still proudly call itself a local. And being so close to the Hilton it provides a real English experience for the numerous visiting tourists with the decor, beer and food.
After a decent interval we shared the special of the day dessert: chocolate and pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. Once again Nina was in raptures.
“What an amazing combination,” she declared while trying to take the lion’s share. “Who thought of putting pecan with chocolate?” she asked while beating me away from the pie with her spoon.
We were quite literally done in after such wonderful feasting and plan to return soon. If we lived nearer we would be partaking in their new delivery service from their extensive Thai menu, but that little luxury is just for the locals for now.
- Salt & Pepper Squid £6.95
- Vegetarian Spring Rolls £5.95
- Grilled Lamb Cutlet £13.95
- Rib-eye Steak £15.95
- Chocolate & Pecan Pie £6.50
- Tempranillo Rioja £25.45
Disabled Access No
Disabled Toilet No